Awakin Call With Linda Cruse 2/13/16
Guest: Linda Cruse
Kozo: Welcome and thank you for joining us. Today our special guest speaker is none other than Linda Cruz. Someone who really embodies today's theme of- " Of Marmalade and Machine guns."
Our moderator today is Audrey Lin, who will engage in deep conversation with Linda Cruse. Our theme today is - "Of Marmalade and Machine guns". It's such an interesting combination of words. When I think about this week’s theme, I can't help but think about last week's theme- "Can't not do". When you see something that you can't not help or do something to change what's going on. And this weeks' theme seems to push that to whole new level, where you can't not do something, even if it's in a completely different part of the world, even if it's in a disaster zone, even if it's in a war zone, that you just feel so compelled and called that you just have to do something about it. Our guest speaker Linda Cruz really embodies that. Whether in post tsunami Thailand or earthquake struck Nepal or her hometown in UK, Linda spent the last decades finding the humanity across the wide spectrum of people places and perspectives.
Some questions we might want to consider on this weeks theme is - What is the moment when you connected with someone who is very different from yourself or a time when you embraced an environment far different from what you are accustomed to? What did you learn from that experience?
Since we have the pleasure of having our remarkable moderator Audrey Lin, I though we could start by asking her to kick offer circle.
To give you some context, Audrey is one of those people who seems like never can't not do. She is always looking to serve, always looking to help, always looking to make humanity more at ease. She just got back from a two-month trip throughout India where she was serving in all different manners, with all different cultures and people from all different walks of life. So Audrey, thank you for joining us. Any thoughts to start this conversation?
Audrey: Yeah. I am so excited for today's call. Thank you Kozo. I was actually reading parts of Linda's book this week and I couldn't put it down. It was so easy to read through it. It's almost like an action packed novel, but it is real life version. One thing that really struck me is - sometimes she goes through these experiences and you kind of wonder, "What a day! What a week or what a month!" She is experiencing such extremes of humanity. One thing I was reminded of is around the theme of just connecting with people in such different spaces is this moment when I was actually in college, studying. I spent that summer after first year of college just volunteering in a homeless shelter. I don't know what is; I just wanted to spend time with people that slipped through the cracks. I really wanted to learn from them and hear their stories. When you are in a place where the system hasn't worked for them, and they slipped through, there is something real there. You can't have a conversation where you talk in lies. You really have to be genuine and authentic and present. I really was drawn towards that. So I remember showing up at the homeless shelter and the person who was running the soup kitchen looking at me as if I were lost little child and said, "Oh! You are here to help! Ok you can do this." He gave me some really easy job and didn't pay that much attention. But I kept coming back. I kept showing up on a regular basis and then they got to know me and I got to know them. I got to know the people slowly. I remember, one day, finishing up at the shelter and was walking to the subway to go home. I remember just walking down the street and there’s this man sitting on the steps near the shelter. I recognized him because he would come in whenever I was there and he would eat. So He was sitting on the steps and he seemed like he was about to cry or there was something in him. Sometimes I take extra food from the shelter if they had abundance. The kitchen guy at this point was my buddy and he would all load me up and say, " you have to take this home and you have to take that home too." So I had like a bag of grapes or something and I just remember seeing this man on the steps and recognizing him and knowing things about him and eve though our stories were so different, I just felt so connected to him. I don't even know if we exchanged words. He seemed like he was in place where he did not want to speak. I said, " Would you like some grapes?" I just offered him some grapes and felt to be blessed to be sharing the same space with him and seeing the similarities between us more than the differences in that moment. There is such innocence to that kind of seeing. Reading and hearing about Lind's stories, it brought me back to that place of seeing the similarities and focusing on that rather than the differences. That was the moment that I was reminded of.
Kozo: Wow! Beautiful!
Kozo: Lets get into the conversation and hear Linda's stories that span the globe!
Audrey: Yeah! Thank you Linda for taking the time to join us this morning.
Linda: It's a great pleasure. It's great to be here!
Audrey: So great to have you. I know you are also in the midst of full day, full week. You were just in Boston and now you are in LA and you are about to go to fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake and I think in 1 week you are headed to Nepal. It is such a gift for us to get to share space with you for this hour and half and learn more. Thank for taking the time to just pause and share with the rest of us about your story.
To introduce Linda a bit.. Reading about her and hearing about her and talking with her a little bit, you kind of get a sense that- She is a firecracker, who is like a really resilient rope. If you look at a piece of rope, you see all those threads woven together within it. With Linda, each thread is a strand of some experience in her life, whether it is growing up with parents who had this adventurous spirit. Instead of going to the beach during school vacation, they would zig zag across the country, stopping and talking with different folks and meeting people along the way.
She is originally from UK but she visited 40 countries in 15 years with just one suitcase! I'd love for her to share a little bit more, I think her interest in going to disaster torn areas and working as an aid worker and work with people in countries and communities and people inter worst hour in the mid 90's. She was driving home from a conference and at that point she was a single mom and she was raising two kids and she was working job that put bread on the table. While she was driving at night in the middle of the highway, she turned blind. Some how she managed to pull over to the side. In that moment she really thought, " I really want to change my life in some way." Her children were grown and were out of the house a few years later. Her sight returned and she later found out that temporary blindness could be caused by stress. Few years later when her children were grown, she decided to go to China, the first place she went, just as a volunteer as a teacher and also with the skills of her nursing background. From there She has walked to so many different places and so many different communities. She showed up in Thailand right after the tsunami hit in 2004. She showed up in Pakistan after the earthquake hit there and then with refugees from Tibet. So many different places, so many different languages and so many different people. From Dalai Lama to Prince Charles to the nameless, faceless volunteers and community members that populate our planet. She has really done so much to really give a hand up than a hand out, as she says.
So we are looking forward to hearing more about it Linda!
Linda: What a great introduction Audrey! Well done! You summed me up very well. Where would you like me to start?
Audrey: I guess it would be great to start your journey as an aid worker. I would love to hear a bit more from your perspective of hat moment when you suddenly turned blind when you were on he high way. Can you just recall that experience and what was that feeling and hoe did that shift your trajectory of your priorities or where you wanted to go?
Linda: I married when I was very young, when I was in my early twenties. At the time I was in a career I absolutely adored. I was a nurse and was a nurse for 10 years. It was a joy every single day; I felt that spring in my step to go to work. As life happened, I got divorced at a very young age and I was a single mom with two young children. At that time I realized that to be able to be the single mom that I wanted to be and to be able to give my children all the things that they needed, the money I made as a nurse, in those days, was not going to pay the bill. So I started to look for job that paid me more money. And at that time the Pharmaceutical industry was looking to engage nurses. As I looked at the job description, it ticked all the boxes. It came with company car, good salary, regular holidays and no night duty. I thought, " I can do this. This actually will suit me fine." But there was no call from my heart from my soul to do this job, but I took the job because it fulfilled all the financial requirements that I needed. So I took the job. I found myself unhappy most days but I could see my children are happy and I could pay my bills. I would come home and have an extra glass of wine to quiet myself to sleep. At the end of the day, I was fulfilling my obligation for my children. And so I carried on until, it got to one day when I was driving from conference, and it as a dark winter night, and I was leaving a very high profiled conference and was desperate to get away. And little did I know that. I was on that highway and the curtains came down and I went blind. I really don't know how I ever stopped that car. Whether it was intuition or angel, I sat there on the shoulder just wondering what had happened to me. I was scared; I was angry; I was frustrated. I thought my life was over and I would never see my children again; I'd never work again. And that fear and panic.. It was way before the time of mobile phones. I sat there in the dark and cold, unknown, with myself. Of course in those very dark moments, I started to pray to God that I hadn't thought about in a very very long time. I said, "If my sight returns, I promise that I will find my purpose and my passion. And I sat there really in that heart searching, soul-searching moment, Praying with all my soul that I would get my sight back. And I was lucky. My sight did return. It was something called hysterical blindness or stress blindness, which comes on due to overloaded stress. So, this incredible wake up call I had, catapulted me into the next major stage of my life. When I went home to my two gorgeous children, I shared with them that I realized that I had become a very over stressed and very negative and unhappy person. And that, for me to succeed in changing myself around, I really need their help. There were so dependent on me and there was no way that I could just leave them and quit my job and do something else. So I needed to do something, only I could do and that is to change myself. And so I set forth doing that. I invite people to practice this exercise because, we are such creatures of habit and we don't realize day by day if we are happy or not happy or if we are expressing positive vibrations or negative vibrations. What I found I was doing; I was having the most negative conversations all the time with family, friends, and work colleagues. It was constant banter of negativity. It was like, " Oh gosh! The weather is really bad today. Oh my goodness me! It’s going to be worse tomorrow." It wasn’t that horrible. I have become the most negative person because I put myself in a job that for me was meaningless. And so I had just immersed myself into being a very negative and miserable person. A very tough moment.
Audrey: So, What steps did you take to begin? How did you know you even wanted to go to volunteer and do relief work? I mean, you can do so many things when you volunteer. You could plant the trees; you can volunteer at a local school. But you decided to really go around the world and go to places when they are at their worst. What prompted you to decide to go in that direction?
Linda: It was a very interesting process for me because I realized that the only person we could ever change is yourself. I literally asked my children to help me. I said to them, " I need to find out what my purpose is, what my passion is. But to start I had to change this negative person and loose her for good. There are three words that we are going to eliminate from my vocabulary. They are no, not and don't." Can you imagine that with teenage children? I wasn't the most popular person. The funny thing was they were team players. They said, "Ok mom, we'll help you." We had this swear book. Whenever we said the three words we were not meant to say, no, not and don't we had to put a pound in the swear book. And I tell you what; we had a very good holiday that year. The interesting thing was, I switched the news off for quite sometime. I stopped watching the news because I was regurgitating every single thing that came in the news. All the bad news. And when the news came on I filled it with dance music or comedy show and just put in the positive where the negative was. I actually looked at the circle of people I hung out with. As they say, you become whom you have coffee with. I found the group of people that I attracted, they were also very negative people. So I started to look to actually communicate and hang out with positive and happy people. That also helped me. But during this time I was really changing myself, I worked a whole course called "Emergency Zen” I wrote it because I managed to change myself around from being negative to positive in 1 month. I really worked on it every single day. Simultaneously I was looking to really find my heart was pulling me toward. It really was to help people again. When I reflected on my nursing, I thought do I really want to help someone in safe England, where we have good social services, good social security? And I thought no, my heart is pulled to go to places in the world where they don't have financial security or social security. Where they are really living on the edge. Where their health, their security, their fate, their fears are really there right on the surface of life. So it was one day, when my son came to me and said," Mom, I really want to join the army." My daughter came and said, " I want to go to university." I sat them both down and said," Is it time for me to leave home now?" Because I realized my kids have found their dream, they have found their passion, they have found their purpose and they were about to embark on it. And I then realized what my purpose was. And it wasn't being in England. This is how I came to that point of selling everything I own in the world. Selling my house, my car, my books, my paintings and really leaping on to the sublime with the full sense of passion and purpose, knowing that if I did leap the next would appear and that I would be ok. Of course we never know. But my heart and my soul were pulling me stronger than anything that was stopping me. So that is exactly what happened. And here we are 15 years later. I still at the moment own nothing in the world apart from one suitcase and it brought me here in America and as you say, along the way I had the incredible honor to meet the most influential and powerful humanitarians, those volunteers that join me and celebrities and the well known business leaders that have met in the front lines. All great humanitarians.
Audrey: Learning about your work, it really is about brokering relationships between all these different people. Between humanitarians who are very influential or regular volunteers who just want to help or business who want to help and support or bring aid in some way but don't have the local context to be that effective and local grass roots communities and NGO's that have their own perspectives and position in those communities. I don't know, could you share about one of the places where you worked and a little bit about how this way of brokering relationships has come about and how it evolved?
Linda: I found in these 15 years is that we have to listen to out hearts and souls. Whether we actually go and help in any situation. Whether it’s in our local schools or whether it’s in a disaster area or the lady next door who has got two young children and desperately needs a break.
I will tell you a story regarding my first visit overseas to a major disaster area. It was during Asian tsunami in 2004. I was actually in Uzbekistan, which was one of the Russian former states. When I saw this incredible disaster unfold on the computer screen, I realized that I had to go. What I saw was waves that are 100 foot high, 240,000 dead, affecting 40 countries. All I knew was that I had to go. There was nothing else that could fill that sense of purpose. And when I got there, it was as if a nuclear bomb had gone off. It really was a sense complete and utter disaster. Resorts crumpled like matchboxes, cars thrown on top of roofs and glass everywhere. I knew that I had to get to the largest survivor camp, which was full of 5000 Thai survivors. As I got closer, I did feel rather overwhelmed by the sense of destruction and death. So, I got out of my car and I walked to he edge of the cliff to take a good deep breath and tried to calm myself down. As I looked over, and looked at the sea, I wish I hadn't because, all I could see was a sea full of dead bodies. I walked back from the edge of the cliff and I collapsed. I had one thought in my head and that was - I must make it come true as fast as possible. As I sat there having my panic, my nursing matron appeared in front of me. And she stood there very severe in her starched white apron, and she looked at me at said, " Nurse, this is not about you. You are here to serve. You are here to contribute." As I saw her there, it took me back to my old nursing days. And it took me back to that sense of complete and utter service and contribution. Which amazes me- to get back into my body and straighten my back and take a large gulp of water and get back into that taxi and head to the front line. Never fear if you panic when you are about to do something. Take care of yourself and reboot. Leave your mission as a back server. Something will always come to you to help you over that hurdle.
I arrived in the survivor's camp and I knock into this communal tent. The next morning, because I am a nurse I went to help in the first aid tent. It was quite extraordinary, the level of all trauma and grief that were there. But what worried me most was that a number of children have been orphaned. There was one little girl particularly who kept pulling on my trouser leg. Eventually I said to the doctor, "Do you know anything about this girl?" They said she has lost every pillar of her life. She lost her parents, her brothers, her sisters, her teachers and her religious leaders. And this little girl continued to pull on my trouser leg and she took me to an area where the children had been penned. Now, when it is all supposed to happen, the great and the good arrive almost immediately. The UN helped the children. But so did the nasty. The sex traffickers, the child kidnappers. So as I looked at this area where there are these amazing volunteers from all over the world had arrived. They were taking care of the children. They had given them art to do. The Painting done by the children were black. It was the grief that was coming out in this really untold way. As I was there, I had a text message from my father. My father is a magician and in fact I am a magician. What I realized was that these children had to smile again. Because whatever happened, the sun does rise the next day. We have to overcome whatever situation we are in. As I thought of magic, I wonder if we can get a magician to come out to this disaster area and volunteer. Mostly, when I talked to people about some of the things they do, they do say to me, "Linda you are crazy!" Never mind! I called back to London and I asked the magic circle if the would send out a magician. Because I knew that if a magician came, he would start to heal the heart and souls of those children, through smiles, through laughter and through relaxation. And the magician came and he stayed for six weeks. He was the pied piper and an incredible volunteer. He had no skills at all to make a difference in this terrible disaster. But he was as useful as the docs were and as the nurses were. As he came and made people happy and smile ad start to recover emotionally and psychologically. Incredible thing! And really, when I think about how that psychological recovery started, It something I have taken through my entire humanitarian career. Because my main focus is to help people to help rebuild their lives. And when I am there, I am looking to see how I can get people to earn money as quickly as possible. Especially when you had everything taken away from you, you have a means of earning a livelihood. And then there are people who lived in this area worked in the hotel industry. And every single thing is gone. Hotels were washed away and they were not going to be rebuilt.
Audrey: How did you do that?
Linda: With another set of volunteers! I love volunteers! This time it is the volunteers who came from the business world. I said to them, " I need you to come and help me solve the problem. You have skilled people in marketing, accounting. You have incredible business skills. Will you come with me to the front line? Will you talk to the people, look at the geography? Will you actually look to see if there is any market opportunity for these people to rebuild their lives? " So these great volunteers came from Bangkok and they came for just a weekend. They travelled to the areas the tsunami hit. They were superstars because they have a certain set of skills that I don't have. They were able to look at the situation, find a market opportunity and come up with a 10-year business plan and having people to earn money immediately. These people were not educated. They couldn't relocate. So they came to them and said, " We have an idea. Where the waves hit it still left acres of rubber trees. All the people need to actually hold this rubber as a coconut shell, a knife a rubber mango. Will cost about $200 to get a full community back up and running and earning money." When I asked the community if they thought that this is a good idea, they came back and said, "Our grandparents were used to this code of work. Of course it is a great idea. And it is easy for us to do." In four months they earned three times the money they have ever earned in the hotel industry. That is gift the business leaders gave me as volunteers! Another great example! You know 10,000 volunteers came from all over the world. We have from 18 years old to 80 years old. We had the huggers. We have people come just to literally hug people. We had people come to clear up the glass from the beaches. We had 600 tons of debris on the beaches that the volunteers moved. We had pouring of love, unconditional love and compassion. We are one world. And these people self-organized.
Audrey: They self organized!
Linda: So organized! I am a big believer in never be burden especially when you are in disaster area. They make sure you go with a tent or food. But actually what normally happens is that people actually want to feed you. They want you to buy a meal from them. You give them purpose. They want to take care of you. They will open up their homes. You become a community within that disaster. And that stops them from feeling abandoned and forgotten. That's a very big thing also. Bit like you talking about the homeless person. The quiet people, the silent people, the forgotten people.
Let me move quickly to what I am doing in Nepal after the earthquake that happened there last year in April and May. It's been 8 months now. The people in Nepal are forgotten. They had a massive disaster. The community I am working in, 95% of the homes have been destroyed and their livelihood gone. And no one has gone to that village to help them and now it's 8 months on. In these areas of disasters, once the candles are gone, we think people are ok. We think that they have survived and somehow they will rebuild their lives. But in communities where they have no social security, no financial security, they have no ability to do that. They will sit there having lost their job, livestock, lives of children in the earthquake, and they have no idea how to replace it. It may only cost $60 to replace a goat. They don't have that money to do that. Or $50 to replace the shed to be able to have a shelter from sunshine. They don't have that. Always, we need to give them a hand up, not a hand out. We need to give them ability to go back to being independent and self sustained. Given them human dignity. And that comes from having economic empowerment. These are the big the big things at the moment. If the listeners are interested in getting involved, I do have the website, which is- www.wandaid.org. If you go to the events and see what we are doing in Nepal and how we are operating, we will show you how we are trying to help the people there.
And I must tell you something that is super exciting. Guess what! We have magicians coming to the front line. In fact, we are starting the magical tour here in the USA. Because, I am very lucky indeed, to have the porters from the cast of Downton Abbey. It is a British Television Show. And one of the main actors in the show is someone called Jimmy Carter. He plays the role of MR. Carson, the butler in Downton abbey. An incredible character. When I was with Jim and the team at Downton Abbey in UK, Jim and I got talking. And Jim Carter is a magician! The Carson the butler from Downton Abbey is a magician! We also got talking with the executive producers of Downton Abbey, Liz Trubridge and we started as a collective called Wandaid.org.
Audrey: We will also emails it out to folks.
Linda: Thank you so much. And Jim is here in The United States. Can you believe that? Jim carter from Downton Abbey is here. He is actually going to be here next week in the area of Boston. Jim is joining me to fund raise for Nepal. He is here between Feb the 17th - Feb 21st. So Please let your listeners know about this. They have the opportunity to meet Jim, hear about Downton Abbey and help Nepal and see some magic!
Audrey: That's Great! Speaking of magic. I am reminded of a story that you wrote in your book. When you were in Thailand and you brought the magician, it was a great hit in the refugee camp. There was another group of folks in Thailand who are kind of removed from mainstream society there. You managed to break those walls and bring the magic into their community as well. Can you share a little bit about that?
Linda: Yes. I think magic always evolved to breakdown barriers, to make people curious, to even stop conflicts. I think during very serious situations in Nepal during the Maoist time, when these two gangs were about to fight, I would get magic hat out. Because it's fun.
Audrey: In the middle of two armies you bring magic hat!
Linda: Yes! Because people actually don't want to fight. We want to be having fun and we wan to be curious. We want to be interested in something. I did the same thing in the fishing village in Thailand. And they have been labeled, as they sometimes are, if you are living in the poor areas, as the gangster areas, bit of mafia. I was advised, " May be you shouldn't go there with your magician." I thought, " C'mon! Let’s go and see." Actually as along as you have an open heart and positive energy, and obviously we were going there to help, they really welcomed us into their hearts and their homes. I think that takes me onto something else, fear. You know if we project fear, then of course we will attract it. I have been in so many, what would seemingly be a dangerous situation. I don't feel any fear. Because, I am enjoying that one purpose of helping people. I never had any moments where I have had an issue, really.
The reason that I worked in Pakistan which is quite complex and difficult area to work in; It was also the Pakistan earthquake. But still, as along as you wear their dress, if you dress as they do, you start to behave and become like the. This is their dress in their country. And they will learn to not make a big show of what you are doing. Instead of taking a big armored vehicle to the front lines with the bells and whistles going, you take a taxi and you go as a normal citizen to help in the remote area. And that doesn't matter whether you are here in US or in Europe. Wherever you go to help a different community, just for a moment think about who they are and where they are coming. Whether it's a homeless shelter or whether it is an indigent community that has their way and their own ritual, be curious about it, understand and become one of them as you enter their community. All of this stuff that you bring as your gifts, as well as understanding where they are coming from.
Audrey: I think it's really interesting that you mention that you never really had a problem. I mean you have brushed death multiple times. You evaded rape. You got a cut on your face and you stitched it up yourself. You suffered from hypothermia! I think you faced some pretty extreme conditions. And it is pretty remarkable the way you look at it- everything always worked out anyway!
So what enabled you to keep bouncing back and running headlong onto these circumstances? Knowing that you might be facing certain extreme situations?
Linda: I mean, to be really honest with you, it is the faces of the people that I am helping. Always, when you close your eyes and the you can see them as children, elderly, moms and dad of the families who I know have been forgotten, All I know is that I need to get up the next day and to move forward to help them. I believe we have to take care of it ourselves, because it actually is just not about us. When we are born into a privilege society where we have a level of education, a level of social security and financial security, it is so great that when we can use our gifts and skills to help other people.
I have a beautiful family in the UK, when I am there; I really look to see whom in my local community I can help. Whether it is an elderly person who hasn't gone to super market in a while, Lets go find out how he is? Let's go and find out if he needs something. It's always the quiet ones, that's what I found out with my nursing. The ones that are shouting they re usually ok. It's the quiet ones; it's the one that sits quietly in the corner that you don’t notice for few days. They are the ones that we should be on alert for and find out what is happening. That is always what drives me forward. At home and abroad is to know that there is small bit of difference that I can make to that person the next day in some way. And that can be just a smile other face when I bring a magician, when I do magic myself, when I add art or music or drama to a situation, there is always something in such a small way that each of us in our own way can bring to that person to uplift them just at the moment. I would never know the ripple effect that has on people.
Audrey: Great! Is there a particular moment that really made an imprint in your mind when you connected with some one in that way? I am sure you have many many moments, but are there one particular moment that you really hold dear your heart or one that is particularly memorable to share?
Linda: I like to show the diversity of where I work. I did have the most amazing moments with His Holiness Dalai Lama up in the high Tibetan areas. It was helping an amazing charities, I realized that many babies were dying because they weren't aware of something. Tibetan nomad, even if you begin to imagine their lives, they really only have what they stand up in. They usually own only on set of clothes, they just literally just have what they carry on them and around their waist what need for their day-to-day life. Around their waist hangs one knife. This knife is something that they use to cut their Yak meat when they are having their food. What these Tibetans high up in the Himalayan areas were doing is that they were also using this knife to cut the umbilical cord of their child. Inadvertently they were killing their own babies because the knife was very very dirty. When you are looking to add value or change someone’s life, all it took was for me and a group of volunteers to go up to this area and share this one piece knowledge that is so simple to help save lives. Really very extraordinary. And again people travel far and wide to share this message. And just seeing the smile on the Grand dad's face or the mother's face, when they knew that they understood the reason why their babies were dying, is extraordinary. We also managed through this amazing charity, to embolden the religious leaders, who helped us to convey the message of using a clean knife. When they do their religious rituals over it, pray over it or do the puja over it and encourage them token this knife in its place until it is time to use it to cut the umbilical cord. All you are trying to do is share joy and happiness and the continuation of life in a happy and positive way. We all have the ability to do that every single day of our lives.
Audrey: It's beautiful! It brings to mind that the wide landscapes that you've seen. In my experience, after such extensive traveling, I am wondering, do you ever feel called to do service rooted in one place? In some ways home is everywhere and in other ways, when home is everywhere it is also nowhere. So where is home of you?
Linda: I am actually a global citizen. No doubt. I see the world as my home. While I don't own home currently, I have millions of places I can sleep all over the world. I never feel homeless. But I suppose because my children live in England, I go there. Of course a very large part of my heart is with my children and my six grand children. It is really fun when I am with my six grand children in UK. I actually want to encourage people more and more to know that we are all so connected. It doesn't matter whether you live in the Amazon jungle or the Sahara Desert or the mansion in Colorado. We all have the same values. We all want our children to be happy and healthy. We all want to be educated. We all need to really care for each other more. I have children that work in the world, which is 80% of the world that lives on less than $2 a day. Here in lies another message. Poverty doesn't equal on happiness. The people that I am with on the edge and on the front lines, in the evening, they do have the ability to dance and sing and drum and share stories over that lovely cup of chai. Sometimes we get lost in the material world where we have the commercial and material expectation. I also encourage people to really get back to basics about what is important in your life and what brings happiness to you and your loved ones. Many many years ago, I said to people, "Don't buy things, buy experiences". Things will get old, break, disappear or you loose them. If you spend your money on experiences whether that's having a family holiday, family vacation, or traveling to another part of the world or it's a day in the park having a picnic with your family, that will make some happy memories for the rest of your lives. And that's what traveling so much has taught me. Your values and who you are can change in time, when you see different levels of happiness and what brings happiness. When I noticed a young boy in Egypt who was playing with no shoes and wearing a raggedy t- shirt and a parallel short, my son who was also seven year old, gave away his brand new trainers and his Nike T- shirt. He said, "If he doesn't need one, I don't either. Look how happy he is!" So traveling is very important. At least moving out of your own environment and going to see how the people live. That could be just to a suburb in your own town.
Audrey: I'd love to know more about how you nurture people's self sustainability. I know when you go to these places, you mentioned that it s really important to help these people find their own way of earning their livelihood after their work has been destroyed or their jobs or the hotels they have been working in after the tsunami have been destroyed. You forge these deep relationships with people and then in a way, you sow a seed and nurture the conditions for them to grow. And once they are strong enough to grow on their own, you let go. So how do you distinguish between teaching a person to fish vs. giving them a fish? Sometimes it's not al that clear.
Linda: Very, very true. Of course you have to remember that the places I go to are absolutely destitute. They have nothing. When people are like that and when you are absolutely at the rock bottom, you become more open to what do we need, what do you want. So these very authentic conversations happen. Whenever I go to any community, like I am going to Nepal in a couple of weeks, We sit with the people and we talk about their lives; their ritual. What they want to do. What their skill sets are. What the soil is like. What would grow there? What they would really like to introduce into the community. Often these very marginalized remote communities never have many chances. As we go in I have a saying called- " Build back better". They already have a hand to mouth existence. We go in to see how we can build back better. This is what we do in the village that I am going. We can replace their livestock, which is what they wanted to do. They would like to become the center of milk collection and distribution. We need to raise $5000 of the chiller and generator to operate. We know that if we can replace the livestock and arm them with chiller, which can then give them this credibility of being the center of milk distribution, we will get the milk companies to buy that milk. It will really make the vibrancy of that community return. But we have always engaged with the village leaders, youth leaders, and women. I always talk to the teachers. The teachers are the most honored people. I’ll tell you the secret. The person who knows most things that go on anywhere in the world is the hairdresser and the barber. Every single person shares there secret to the hairdresser and the barber. If you really want to know what's going on, go the hairdresser or the barber. That what I do in the third world countries. Exactly the same in the US or the UK. We all share stories to that independent person who is doing our hair. You do have to immerse yourself in their world. I take people on a whole course, because I teach now humanitarian front line working. I actually teach an online course and then they can with me for a front line for an experience. Jim Carter himself is coming with me to the front line in Nepal doing magic. He is having his own experience. What I am saying is that, Basically, we need to understand who they are to really help them from inside out with a hand up. And it’s a process. I developed this incredibly successful structure for long-term sustainability over 15 years. That's why I am so very qualified to be the teacher of this foundation called "the frontline humanitarian work". Because, I tell you, I have seen everything.
Audrey: (laughs) What is the craziest thing you have seen?
Linda: Craziest situation! Oh crikey! One is brought to mind, which is not actually funny to be honest. What can happen when people going to under developed area is that they want to change people, which is something I am completely against. There was a very small Islamic community in Thailand when I was there to help them after the tsunami. Some beautiful missionaries had come in, but they had one goal. That was to convert this Islamic village to a Christian village. To me, that is not allowed. To me, that is absolutely not allowed. We all have our own beliefs and our own rituals and our own systems. And we can share with them unconditional love and compassion. But we cannot go in and change peoples belief system, unless that is something that they want to do. So, when I see that happening, it makes me quite cross and it is something I will always raise awareness about. We should all have that freedom of choice to be who we are and to believe in what we wish to believe in.
Kozo: Linda, like you said, you sit with people who live off $2 a day and some people have lost their everything. They have lost their home, they lost their community, and they lost their livelihood. But I also know that you do work with business people and large organizations like Nestle. I am wondering how you straddle that divide? Right? A lot of people who serve, who work in humanitarian efforts, they can function at that level of helping these very poor people, but then they don't seem to get along with the wealthy. They have prejudices about them or they have reactions to corporations and things like that. You seem to kind of effortlessly float across that divide and I am wondering how you do that and what your experiences are doing that and what transformations who have seen on the other side on the side of large corporations or business people?
Linda: It's a very good question. For me, I have devoted my 50 years to ensuring the big companies on the private sector and business leaders are engaged in making a difference in the front lines. It was Prince Charles who taught me this model. If we don't engage them we are actually missing out on the greatest jewels. Business leaders have so many great skills to big to the table. What I have leant is that we just need to facilitate that. They often feel that they often are used as a cash cow. Their only use is to give money. Actually they are worth much more than that. We need to facility that. We need to say, in this situation on the front line, can you please share your marketing skills or your accounting skills, your communication skills. Can you please help us to take this poor fisherman who has lost everything. He replaced his boat. He wants to learn now how to market his service better. He wants to know how to make a sign. He wants to know about health and safety. Do foreigners really like a nice jacket, because they don't need one. It takes a skill that we actually can share with them. What they can see, a bit like my rubber tree story, Very few charity workers would have come up with that incredible financial impact for that community. It took a big business brain to do that and they also did a 10-year business planning for it. I've seen over and over again. We need to build the bridges. Often I work with Wall Street charities, large charities and the private sector to bring them together. Because, there is suspicion, there is mistrust. We need to know that we each have very good skills. And all o be alert for each other. Also even in the charitable world, the business world, we waste a lot of money. A lot of the donations that are given to big charities go straight down the toilet and doesn't reach the people. They want to have that accountability; they want to have transparency; they want to have that rapport. That’s something I have done from the day one. I show exactly where the money has gone. I show the effect it had on the people and I show a video. I show before, middle and after. I show the uplift through the business intervention of how someone can just completely rebuild his or her life. But I have also shown the private sector how well it works by volunteering. For example KPMG helped do some volunteering. They were giving their staff a day a month for 6 months. KPMG is an accounting firm and very highly qualified people for there. But they decided to be empathetic and allowed their staff to volunteer one day a month for six month. But very strange thing happened. After the six months, the global chair of KPMG came back and said to the amazing staff, the productivity puff the company went up because their staff volunteered. Contribution is the greatest human need. If people volunteer, they feel good about themselves and so even a hard accounting and highly qualified firm like KPMG, their productivity went up when their staff started to volunteer. So real service, contribution is the greatest human need. And it has incredible knock -on effect in every area of our life.
Kozo: Wow! I hope all the other corporations and large businesses are aware of the rise in productivity in KPMG for having their world volunteer.
Linda: It is a very serious thing that few companies know. And I have ad many great experiences of where companies are starting to engage in a serious way and allow their staff to volunteer more. University students and college students, they are looking for companies, which are very committed to making a difference in the world. And allowing then time incorporated into the companies to actually volunteer .. You know that's how I got to meet with Richard Branson of Virgin. He is a great humanitarian. It is something that is encouraged right through his whole company at virgin, to ensure that the staff doesn’t just give lip service. The roll up their sleeves and engage. He leads from the front. He is a very big humanitarian. I met him in Johannesburg in very difficult slum area. And there he was leading the way and leading the team and the staff. That's what companies need to do. They need to stand up and recognize that, what I call, "corporate social opportunity". Companies don't need to think that helping out is a responsibility any more. It is an opportunity. We are here together. Allowing your staff to get out and help and volunteer is actually an incredible Knock- on effect of opportunity for the company. Whether it is productivity, whether it is having your staff coming in with a big smile on their face because they are contributing. It's a win win situation.
Kozo: You know there is another study that I heard about. They took two groups. One group did exercise five times a week and another group did volunteer work one time a week and they found that the group that did the volunteer work one time a week was healthier and probably would I've longer than the group that did exercise five times a week. You come to mind on that. I can imagine your grand kids going to school and saying, " My grand ma.. " You have so much life in you Linda. I am wondering if you feel that vitality coming out obviously though your volunteer work, through being of service.
Linda: Most definitely. I never need to take a holiday because every day is a joy. There is this.. I think it's driven by passion of course. That's why another thing that I will say to people, “If you are not living your passion get out. Because if your are not in an environment or work situation, that is filled with passion or be satisfied.... That's why I do feel completely fluff energy, vitally and life and I feel joyous. I do wake up in the morning and sing thank you form the heights. Because I feel such gratitude and appreciation about the position that I've been in and to be able to make a difference to hundreds of thousands of peoples lives. To be here in United States is a very privileged environment. Just to be able to sleep in a warm comfy bed, to have a shower and then to be, as I mentioned next week with Carson from Downton Abbey, doing three shows! How crazy is that! I am a front line worker. I can't wait to be in Boston next week and be with the people and share with them this beautiful country of yours. That excites me. So yes. I do have the most amazing richness in my life. The people that I meet, I think that's the great thing as well. I am rushing out to Santa Barbara now for a fund raising event, again for Nepal with the lady. She threw her home open and said, " I am going to invite my friends in." I have two Downton abbey friends coming with me. Mrs. Patmoore and Mrs. Hughes are heading up to this fundraiser for Nepal. The people that come together though, they will be beautiful hearts and souls. There will be people from the business world. People from the community who know that of they there, they will either go onto my website and they will donate to buy a goat or a cow or they will share their skills with me and they will say, "I want to help you with social media. I want to help you with marketing. Can I give you a bed for the night in this hotel? Can I pay airfare to go to Nepal?" It can be the smallest or the largest. We are so connected. I know that people don't wan to give up everything like I've done to be honest, but you can support these people through me or through Wandaid, That Jim, Liz and I have set up. Again next week in Boston, the community.. We are going to a homeless shelter in Boston. We are going to these amazing theaters. The music " Martha Somerville" in Regent theatre in Arlington. I know that the people there will all have gift to give. May be there will be magicians there that want to come to the front line. This is what excites me. That always you come across the most beautiful people in their own way, would want to help. Some of them may even want to buy a cup of coffee. I would love that.
Kozo: I wanted to read a comment that came through the web form. From your hometown, London UK. It says, " I am visiting Nepal with Linda and Wandaid in a week or so. Great to be involved. Listeners may want to know how they can be involved, may be as an individual or a part of the corporate business. This is such an important time to do what we can and Linda's work gives us a great opportunity to do so. I am going to try to listen in from London. It’s 5 pm, and a wet cold gray Saturday. Your broadcast will bring a ray of light. Thank you so much for setting this up with Linda. XXX- Robert"
Linda: Oh! He is a very senior nurse in the UK. He wanted to actually come with me to the front line. I have set up something called," Be the change". You know all about that. Be the change; lead us on the front line. If you can pare anything between 3 and 5 days, come with me. Look at the website. Its Wandaid.org or my own website lindacruse.com. Come and see us. It is time as Robert said. Never ever feel I don't have anything to offer. Because I tell you, I have the huggers, I have the people with circus skills, the people who take the ball around the magician, the actors, the business leaders, the moms, the dads, You all have something to offer. We get connected with that passion and that heart vibration and that's where the magic is! And you can cancel that gym subscription. And then all you have to do is live your passion.
Audrey: I am curious Linda, admits all this activity, do you have a personal practice? How do you stay grounded?
Linda: Yes I do of course. I have been so lucky because I have lived in the countries that have really engaged in being your best and being spiritual and really engaging with nature and environment and appreciating whether it is the warmth of the sun or the goodness of the flowering along the wild paddy field. I've learnt the ritual of every religion known to man. From Islamic religion, Buddhism, Hinduism, from Christian, from indigenous communities, from Native American Indians, I have learnt from refugee camps and I tell you what, I do wake up and bless that morning. I will light incense, I will light a candle, and I’ll say a prayer. I will carry something with me that reminds me of opening my heart, remembering my family. I'll take pictures of my children and grand children and my grand parents. It's just remembering constantly to be in touch with the wonderful and the magic of our beautiful world. I have rituals when I wake up and I have rituals when I sleep. Most of them start with thank you and end with thank you. It is about gratitude and appreciation and joy. My day is full of these rituals. That’s why I wrote my emergency Zen course. We must learn from the indigenous community. They do have much happier existence generally than we do. Because they have understood how to gauge and live their day-to-day life. With all of this plugging in, all of the internet, rituals and habit, their day-to-day lives are two times better. It took me to have that massive wake up call and go blind to understand what these rituals were. But I tell you what, from being 15 years on the front line and having my own hiccups basically, and stop being a negative miserable person. I cut it all out in my life. I now know that there is a very very easy way to live our purpose and passion and to have sense of joy and happiness every single day. And I am a very ordinary person. I came from a very ordinary background. My family was very ordinary. And this is what I managed to do. Anyone can do it, anyone.
Kozo: Wow! I am going to start right now. thank you for that blessing and for that wisdom that you've gathered from so many different cultures and so many different religions. Thank you Linda.
Mish: Linda, it's been delightful and inspiring listening to you. Your enthusiasm is so contagious. I just wondered if you and Jim Carter will be visiting New York city while you are in this States, because I would love to share hugs with both of you. I am a big fan of Downton Abbey and adore Carson and you will be more than welcome to stay in our home. And the hugger! I mean, every body can hug. Just this morning I saw this quote. It said, "They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything." So you can hug in any country in any language, everyone understands what a hug is. I am wondering how prevalent are huggers? Do you take a hugger team with you when you go to disaster areas? And again will you be coming to New York City?
Linda: So lovely to talk to you Mish. Thank you for the call. It's really interesting because, I have been blessed to have these incredible actors like Jim in this quest to help forgotten families. This time we were invited to come to Boston. As I said, in these three theaters.. but invite us please to New York. Because we are gong to be in the USA. we are already been invited to Georgia, Alabama. We are on a quest to come out as three. There might be me, Jim and Mrs. Patmoore or Mrs. Hughes and other actors are so behind me. We have come together one day for good to help the forgotten families.
Mish: What kind of venues you need to be invited to?
Linda: I tell you, In Boston we've got people throwing open their homes and inviting 30 people . we've got the big theatre gig. We've had Unity Churches invite us in. We've had people invite us for high tea. We are leaving people up to your imagination. In Georgia we are going to the Sea Island. We are open to anything and everything. Please give Mish my contact information.
Mish: Yes. you will be more than welcome in our little home. I would love to have you here.
Linda: To anyone listening. Wherever you are in the United States. We really want to bring the joy and the fun of what we are actually doing. And many of them are magicians by the way. They have also got great hearts. They are huge humanitarians. And they want to meet people, share the stories of course of Downton. Share the magic and come to your back yard. C 'mon.
Kozo: Linda, Nayanatara's question came through. She says, “I am so impressed by your ingenuity and bringing inspiration and self nurturing. We are lacking in the way we nurture many of our suburban youth and find no reason sometimes to work or even live. What do you suggest we can do to inspire them to find their passion? these youth are also silent forgotten ones in a sense."
Linda: I have so much empathy with that. I think what we have to do is building those bridges. We have to create a safe, fun and interesting environment for people to come together. So if you are aware of an area or a suburb where people are really lost and are purposeless and passionless, and you are keen to connect with them, start to o research about what really excites people in that area. I tell you what. It comes through something like sport. it could be football , basketball or it could be hockey, something like that. Do research about what really excites them. And that is just the first platform to get to know them. you have got to create the platform to level the playing field where you are looking, dressing, acting, eating the same. It is from that level playing field that you start to understand people’s purpose and passion. And sport is a real leveler and also people are fanatical about it. I would encourage you to do massive research in your area you want to help. Equally start to build a bridge on something that has a very common denominator like sport and start really in depth conversations from that about what peoples passing are and what they would like to do. and then the magic happens. Then you can start to link them and connect them with companies or big organizations that can help them to grow. You got to start way before then with this level playing field.
Kozo: Beautiful! Linda, I know you have to leave right at the end of this. How can we as service space , how can we as community, how can all our volunteers, how can we share view? How can we help you out and what can we do ?
Linda: Thank you for asking. It can be part of my communication team. For example, you heard me mentioning places in Boston. I would love to have that on your website, so people can know that if they come, they have the ability to see us and also to have amazing experience and to donate. People to be part of the larger communication world. many of you, bright young things out there, you great social media, can you join me on Facebook and on twitter. look at what we are doing one day and be part of our community. Actually, if you are able come on the front line with me, come and be the change. Sign up for front line experience. If any of you out there, are part of the business world, I would love you to connect with me. I would love to engage your organization. I would love to come and give a keynote at your company. I would love to be at your next conference to inspire your people to be all they can be. I would love to bring together a think tank of the most creative , innovative leaders to come together and help solve problems. If nothing else, if you wan to buy a goat for Nepal, it is $60. That's a few cups of coffee to go without. Go on to Wandaid.org, go to the donate button and buy a goat. I promise you I'll show you the picture when I get to Nepal in a week's time. There are so many beautiful things you can do. And the last thing is smile at the next person you see, great big smile and give them joy. That would help me too.
Audrey: I'm smiling right now just listening to that.
Linda: Wonderful! Wonderful!
Audrey: Thank you so much Linda for asking the time to join us in the middle of all these travels. Walking up at 5 am to make sure that you can get everything done on time and it's been a real gift to get to hear all your stories.
Linda: My pleasure.
Audrey: As Mish mentioned, your spirit is really infectious and it really comes through in the way that you talk and the way that you speak. There is an open heartedness that I feel listening to you. So thank you, for bringing the magic to our call, Saturday morning or afternoon's or evening's, depending on where we are in the world.
Linda: Oh! that's my great pleasure. It's been great talking to you. Thank you for letting this happen and thank you for helping us with Wandaid and getting the word out. Because we need you as much as anything else. We are one big gorgeous wonderful team. Thank you so much.
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